A Foot In The Door – Finding Collections Work As A Trailing Spouse In A Foreign Country

Written by Caroline Grounds, Freelance Zoological Collections Assistant, Musée national d’histoire naturelle, Luxembourg.

I arrived in Luxembourg 8 years ago when my husband accepted a job offer here, not knowing much about the tiny country (“where exactly is Luxembourg?”), and with a new baby in tow.

I had become accustomed to the trailing expat spouse role, so I was happy for a new adventure, though the hardest part about moving, especially to a country where you don’t speak the language, is finding your niche in which you can carve out something of your own.

As a former Biology teacher, most of my previous museum experience was in science education, as a volunteer at the NHM in London, and the George C. Page museum (La Brea Tar Pits) in Los Angeles, and I was keen to get involved in the Luxembourg Natural History Museum in any way, shape or form. Something about being around the wonders of nature, whether outside or housed in a building, is inspiring to me and, surrounded by like-minded people, where I truly feel like I’m supposed to be.

Not speaking any of the official local languages however (Luxembourgish, German and French), I quickly found that it would be difficult to find work, even on a voluntary basis as I had before. I submitted my CV to the museum anyway, and endured a rather painful phone call in very bad schoolgirl French (mine, not theirs!), which, much to my amazement, led to one of the researchers contacting me for help proofreading his research papers, which were being published in English. That schoolgirl French came in useful after all!

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NatSCA Digital Digest

Welcome to the weekly digest of posts from around the web with relevance to natural science collections. We hope you find this useful and if you have any articles that you feel would be of interest, please contact us at blog@natsca.org

1. Blog: Natural History Blog

Russell Dornan


A great blog worth checking out:

‘My name is Russell Dornan and I was the biology curatorial trainee at Hereford and Ludlow Museums. I blogged throughout my 12 month journey through their natural history collections and went on to be the Natural History Project Co-ordinator at the Horniman Museum in London.

I am now the Web Editor at Wellcome Collection.

All views expressed in this blog are mine alone and do not represent the opinions of my employer.’

Russell Dornan's #MuseumSelfie

Russell Dornan’s #MuseumSelfie (Image by Russell Dornan)


2. Volunteer Position: Mudchute Volunteer Coordinator

Mudchute, East London Countryside


We have a fantastic opportunity for an experienced Volunteer Coordinator to join our team at Mudchute Park and Farm to manage the recruitment, supervision and support of our volunteering programme.

We are looking for an organised, dynamic and enthusiastic individual who has the experience of working in a multi-cultural environment Inner City Environment with groups and individuals from a diverse background. Experience of working with and the ability to enthuse and motivate disadvantaged individuals is essential.

If you think this could be you, we’d love to hear from you! For more details about this part time position, including how and when to apply, please download the application pack by following the website below.

Please note that applications must be received by noon on Friday, August 29th.

Mudchute Volunteer Position

3. Training: Accreditation Plus Training- Making your objects accessible

University of the Arts, London


Wednesday 10 September 2014, 1.30-4pm

Central St Martins


‘Research has proven that touching and handling objects is an important part of the learning experience. However for many museums, allowing visitors to handle objects is an area in which they lack confidence or ‘trained’ staff. This training will address the issue of how we balance the care and conservation of objects against issues of access. Experienced practitioners from Central St Martins will provide guidance on best practice in object handling and discuss how robust systems can make it possible to manage access to collections through handling whilst still protecting them for future generations.

In the session you will:

  • Look at a range of things to consider in order to handling by your visitors.
  • Explore why we use object handling in our museums
  • Learn best practise for handling objects

It is aimed at staff and volunteers who will be developing and delivering handling sessions within their museums.’

To book, fill in an online application form on the Regional Programmes website:

Training Programmes

Training course booking form

Compiled by Emma-Louise Nicholls, NatSCA Blog Editor